Caring for those in the outskirts
To see Jesus is to see the merciful God who is caring towards those in the outskirts who cry out to him.
Jesus is a Jew. It seems he is even portrayed as siding with those who show their contempt for the Gentiles by calling them dogs or swine. This closed and unbending group of Jews is not caring towards pagans. That is because it thinks they are hopelessly beyond redemption; no mission can save them.
But not all Jews think that way. There is no lack of backers of salvation for all, which the prophet Isaiah teaches. And, in the end, Jesus shows that he cares about the Canaanite woman.
And so, he makes stand the prophecy, “Let not the foreigner say,… ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.'” To the shock, then, of those who think they alone are righteous, it is clear that foreigner does not mean beyond salvation. By showing that he is caring, Jesus signals that the wall between Jews and Gentiles is already breaking down.
The one who is caring overcomes prejudices.
Caring towards the Canaanite woman, Jesus gets to know firsthand her great faith. And her faith is great not just because she does not take no for an answer. She also gives Jesus the right title of Son of David, though she is supposedly a pagan. Which Jewish religious leader would grant him such title?
Much less would a religious leader kneel before him. The Canaanite woman does so and takes the humble pose of worship. And she becomes even more humble as she admits she is not a chosen one. She is only an outsider humbly waiting for a small favor.
With presumptions yielding to facts, prejudices fade in the light of a clear and bright faith. And praising the foreigner, Jesus makes true her wish. Surely, the mission of Jesus embraces all nations. After all, God has mercy on all of us, no matter our nationality.
And this mission, of course, is the mission of all of us who claim to follow Jesus. He expects us to have a caring heart. He does not want us to close ourselves to those whom the world deems expendable. And ours is the command, yes, to associate with the lowly. One with those the world scorns, we find out that these are the ones who keep the true religion (SV.EN XI:190). Besides, they embody simplicity, patience, obedience, detachment, as well as committed work, which is a trait of those who are zealous. And they do not teach us to eat up others as though they were bread, but to give ourselves up to feed others.
Lord Jesus, give us a caring heart like yours.
20 August 2017
20th Sunday in O.T. (A)
Is 56, 1. 6-7; Rom 11, 13-15. 29-32; Mt 15, 21-28